Q&A with Brett Warren

When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer and what drew you specifically to fashion?

In middle school my parents gave me my first camera, and I have been smitten ever since. I would plan shoots during the last period of my high school classes with friends, and we would head out to one of their farms to create images together! In the early days, we would take turns in front of the camera which resulted in some fun photos. I was experimenting and learning along the way. My college years refined my technique, and I kept shooting fashion stories as a creative outlet. After returning from an internship in NYC, clients began hiring me for fashion work and my daydream became a reality. To me, fashion is one of the most personal facets of art. We put it on our bodies, and use it to shape our identity and perceptions of one another. The fun part is using this form of art to create small worlds and the characters that can inhabit them in my images.

Your images are more than just snapping photos of models in clothes, there’s a story being told through each one.  What’s your process of finding that untold story to tell?

The story usually begins with the subject. Models can morph into a multitude of characters, and it's my job to decide which one will create an environment for them to thrive within. In my work, the story is the most important element of any shoot. Story tells you who the character is, in what world they exist, and informs the specific details of what they are wearing. When writing a creative brief, I often explore a few worlds, and dive down the most exciting rabbit hole.

Can you describe your process with the engineering prints a little bit and why you choose to work with various mediums?

I have been showing my work in various forms for several years. One consistent comment from these various experiences is how people feel my work should be experienced at a large scale. Initially, the engineering prints solved a huge issue in the expense of printing large format work, but presented a staggering limitation due to the black and white nature of these prints. My entire body of work hinges on the use of cinematic color, yet I have found such a freedom by exploring the world of black and white engineering prints. Color is applied to specific areas using paints, pencils, and sometimes embellishment. The engineering prints have been a fun avenue to explore large format work, and present a challenging creative exercise by assigning a place for color within them in a creative way. 

Your images of frozen objects are jaw-dropping, what’s the story behind those?

My home is full of heirlooms. Some are mine with personal memories attached to them, while some are merely passed down to me through a multitude of friends. Special objects have a way of making their way into my life, and I began these creative exercises in an effort to document these objects as a still life. This is an ongoing project that I will continue to explore, and manipulate these objects to form a new meaning or life to them.

Where do you hope to see your work 10 years from now?

Honestly, I want to be telling better stories, and far less of them. Time is the ultimate luxury in our current culture, and I would love the ability to explore a fashion story to its fullest without feeling I had to "get it out the door". In  the next 10 years, I hope to explore my imagination far deeper than before, and have the resources to bring these worlds to life.

If you could give your younger self just starting out a piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself to keep creating brave personal work. Some of my favorite images were taken 6 years ago on a lesser than camera with unfortunate lighting. It was about the idea, and I would tell myself to pursue those ideas and concepts further and more frequently. Something I am still telling myself today. I would also be sure and let myself know to calm down a bit. Society leads us to believe that we should be creating incredible work while we are young, leaving many of us feeling as if we are racing to fit within a narrow window of opportunity. I now see that you can also learn, refine, and explore over time in pursuit of a career with longevity. I've learned some of the same lessons 3 times, but each time I get the chance to flex my muscles on a larger scale. All that to say, be patient... build a strong foundation of creativity and positivity.

The Tennessean

Downtown Art Crawl celebrates 10 years

  5th Avenue of the Arts, location of the monthly Downtown Art Crawl.  (Photo: Jerry Park)

5th Avenue of the Arts, location of the monthly Downtown Art Crawl.(Photo: Jerry Park)

This month marks the 10th anniversary of one of Nashville’s most popular visual art events, the First Saturday Art Crawl downtown. If you’ve been around the Nashville art scene at all in recent years, you have most likely ventured down 5th Avenue of the Arts to attend a crawl or two.

Since it launched a decade ago, the First Saturday Art Crawl has grown exponentially, becoming one of the most visible and well-attended art events in the city.

In August 2006, the inaugural art crawl featured just a handful of galleries: The Arts Company, TAG (now Tinney Contemporary), and the now-defunct Twist and Dangenart in the Arcade. Now the event boasts dozens of venues in the area, drawing thousands of visitors each month.

“It has become part of the overall Music City brand,” said Arts Company owner Anne Brown. “Ten years ago, The Arts Company had been the only gallery on the block for the previous decade. It was an urban desert. Today, there are packed coffee houses and new restaurants with lines out the doors, dozens of residents living in lofts on the street, along with iconic historic venues, including the Arcade.”

The Arts Company Building located on 5th Avenue of the Arts. (Photo: Bob Schatz)

  The Arts Company Building located on 5th Avenue of the Arts.     (Photo: Bob Schatz)

The Arts Company Building located on 5th Avenue of the Arts. (Photo: Bob Schatz)

“The exponential growth in downtown Nashville has been quite surprising,” said Susan Tinney, who owned TAG Gallery with business partner Jerry Dale McFadden before opening Tinney Contemporary in the same space.

“Much of this is a result of the new convention center and the many out-of-town visitors exploring the art galleries within walking distance of their hotels,” she said. “But also, local people are becoming more interested in collecting contemporary art in their own city.”

Spearheaded by architect Ron Gobbell, the 5th Avenue of the Arts concept sprang from the proximity of The Arts Company, Ryman Auditorium, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

“I hoped it would be a place where I could feed my art buying habit, see art, see people who liked art and serve as a redevelopment stimulus for Fifth Avenue,” said Gobbell. “Downtown Partnership bought into the idea and let me put together a committee to work on it. It died several deaths before it got traction in ’06.”

Gobbell said the project has turned out better than they thought it would.

“The continued success of the crawl is amazing,” he said. “The creativity energy of the gallery owners, along with the support of Metro and The Downtown Partnership continues, keep it fresh and going strong.”

Art crawls have popped up in other Nashville neighborhoods in recent years. Wedgewood-Houston, East Nashville, Franklin, Germantown and now Jefferson Street all host monthly art events.

With no signs of slowing down, the future looks bright for the downtown crawl.

“Today, the art crawl is focused on Fifth Avenue. In the future it’s going to be an event that stretches across downtown,” said Brown. “The numbers will increase with the opening of the 21c Museum Hotel just two blocks away, the new Tennessee State Museum underway, and even more galleries and more public art, murals and related activities throughout downtown.”

“The residents of Nashville are quickly becoming more sophisticated and appreciative of the aesthetic value and investment value of contemporary art in their lives,” said Tinney.

If you go

What: 10th anniversary of the First Saturday Art Crawl

When: Saturday

Where: 5th Avenue of the Arts between Church and Union

Hours: 6-9 pm

Admission: free

Art crawl highlights

This Saturday, art crawls will be happening on Fifth Avenue downtown and in Wedgewood-Houston. Here are a few highlights from each:

On 5th Avenue of the Arts, The Arts Company debuts its annual Avant-Garage Sale & Collectors Art Exchange, a one-week exhibit featuring artworks offered again to the public through private collections.Tinney Contemporary will open "A Decade in the Making," a two-part exhibition commemorating the gallery’s 10th anniversary. At Rymer, artist L.A. Bachman has a solo show titled "Continuing Husk."

In Wedgewood-Houston, Zeitgeistwill host a one-night live performance and video installation by Brent Stewart and Willie Stewart. David Lusk Gallery opens its annual "Price Is Right" exhibition featuring work under $1,000 from 35 artists. Julia Martin Gallery opens a joint show by Emily Holt and Delia Seigenthaler. Channel to Channel will spotlight Knoxville painter Eleanor Aldrich, while Mild Climate brings in Vancouver artist Barry Doupé. Painter Viki Mammina will exhibit 30 original paintings at The Refinery in Houston Station.

by Sara Estes, For The Tennessean 11:55 a.m. CDT July 31, 2016